"Because the assembly gathers in the presence of God to celebrate his saving deeds, liturgy's climate is one of awe, mystery, wonder, reverence, thanksgiving and praise. So it cannot be satisfied with anything less than the beautiful in its environments and all artifacts, movements and appeals to the senses." (n 34 - Environment and Art in Catholic Worship; United States Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy; 1978)
St. Patrick's Seminary Chapel certainly meets the above criteria. For 100 years, its main chapel has been the heart and center of seminary life, and appropriately occupies the architectural center of the seminary buildings. Even following the complete devastation of the chapel during the 1906 earthquake, its reconstruction was foremost in the seminary's consciousness.
The floor plan today consists of the nave and sanctuary, the latter being surrounded on the sides and rear by the sacristy. The right side of the sacristy is used for vesting, the left side for the various works of the sacristans, and the space in the rear of the sanctuary for liturgical storage. The sacristy is a model of its kind, beautifully appointed with well-planned cabinets, neatly arranged, and all within easy reach. The downstairs sacristy has been painted and varnished, with new carpeting; and a new velvet cover for the vesting cabinet. A statue of the Sedes Sapientiae has been added at the side of the vesting case. Above the sacristy is a mezzanine floor which, traditionally, provided three private chapels on either side, an adequate vestry to the rear, and a splendid semicircular gallery space around the sanctuary, framed by large oak grills that pierce the upper sanctuary wall. The upper sacristy now houses the organ pipes.
By reason of its central location, the chapel lies directly opposite the main entrance of the seminary. The space between the grand double staircase forms a broad approach to the chapel and produces the effect of a dignified atrium. The chapel entrance itself is framed by a noble doorway, which has fluted oak columns rising to a Romanesque arch. This molded arch encases a representation in bas-relief of the appropriate scene of Christ with the two disciples at Emmaus.
On entering the chapel, one is impressed by its spaciousness: there are no side chapels, nor anything else to detract from the effect that this seminary chapel is what it is supposed to be - the chancel of a cathedral. It is simple in its interior proportions, being one hundred and forty feet long, forty-two feet wide, and forty-nine feet to the center of the vaulted ceiling. The wide and unobstructed center of the chapel, banked on either side by three longitudinal rows of stalls, the deep sanctuary, the absence of elaborate statuary or of any other competing ornaments, all tend to bring the altar into prominence and focus attention on it.
One is immediately struck by the chapel's quiet and devotional atmosphere. It has one tone throughout, achieved principally by the fact that the wainscoting, which covers the whole interior, the ribbed, coffered ceiling, and the sturdy stalls are all made of oak of the same warm grayish brown color, and by the fact that everything of ornament is so harmoniously designed as to be unobtrusive. But it is for the seminarians and priests who frequent the chapel to grow in appreciation of its beauty, of the rich detail of the wood work, of stained glass windows, of carpets, stations of the cross and the many other subtle appointments.
The richly colored carpets that cover the neutral marble of the pavement in the nave and sanctuary were designed by the San Francisco artist and sculptor, John MacQuarrie, and were made by a famous textile mill in Austria. The large carpet is particularly notable for its size and beauty. It is seventy feet long, twelve feet wide, and covers the entire nave center, beginning at the door and extending to the sanctuary steps, leaving only a border strip of the marble floor showing on the sides. The symbolism in the carpet's design is a biblical narrative, woven in deep hues of maroon, gold and green. The stained glass windows, designed and manufactured in Birmingham, England, by John Hardman and Company, have the architectural merit of being neutral to the general tone of the chapel, and their pictorial design gives them the inspirational merit of being suggestive to aspirants to the priesthood. Ten of these windows, the five on either side nearest the sanctuary, represent the biblical story of the sacrifice of Jesus, told in type and antitype, beginning with the presentation of the infant Savior in the temple by Mary, His Mother, and culminating in the entrance into Heaven of the great High Priest, offering His completed sacrifice to the Heavenly Father. Each window contains two panels, one above the other, both concerning the same subject, one representing the Old Testament type, the other its New Testament Fulfillment.
According to the original plan, these ten were to be the only windows in the body of the chapel; however, the chapel was enlarged in the course of reconstruction after the earthquake of 1906, and this necessitated the addition of four more windows. The two additions on the right side represent St. Francis of Assisi, patron of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and St. Patrick, co-patron of the Archdiocese and patron of the seminary. The other two, on the left side, portray St. Charles Borromeo, the founder of the modern seminary movement, and the Good Shepherd, the ideal and model of the true parish priest. These last four windows are of original design and appreciably better than the rest.
The Stations of the Cross, fine canvasses of subdued but distinct color and detail, are encased in the wainscoting. Around the sanctuary, set in between the arches of the grills, are portraits of the seven herald prophets of the Messiah, with John the Baptist in the center, flanked by the four major and two minor prophets: (from left to right) Moses, Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezechiel and David. The presence of these venerable heroes of the Old Testament provides the theological key to the message of the entire chapel decoration: in the words of St. Augustine, "Novum in Vetere latet, vetus in Novo patet" ("The new covenant is hidden in the old, the old is revealed in the new.")
On the rear wall of the chapel, behind the screen of the great ornamental organ pipes, is another painting of heroic size. It represents Christ, the Light of the World, and the life-giving diffusion of His blood to all the nations of the earth, importing the mission of priests. Beneath this painting and directly above the main entrance to the chapel is another canvas. It is a symbolic ordination scene, showing Archbishop Patrick W. Riordan ordaining three young deacons to the dignity of the priesthood.
Two well-modeled statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph stand on either side against the pilasters that mark the outer confines of the sanctuary. These, together with such other ornamental designs as the massive carved stall ends, the lighting brackets, the coloring of the ceiling panels, all blend quietly to give a unity that makes a deeply religious atmosphere and a dignified dwelling place for the Lord, the High Priest of the seminary.
The chapel as it stands is a memorial to the interest of Archbishop Edward J. Hanna in his seminary. The original chapel, on the site of the present one, was begun by Archbishop Riordan and was almost completed at the time of the disastrous earthquake of 1906. In 1915, Archbishop Hanna began the work on the new chapel, a work, partly of rehabilitation, but chiefly of new design and enlarged plan and construction. It was completed in 1918 thanks to the architectural ability of C.J. Devlin, the artistry and craftsmanship of John MacQuarrie, and the helpful advice and solicitude of the Rector, Father Henry A. Ayrinhac, S.S., and Father Jean L. Redon, S.S.
The marble altar was intended for the original chapel and, though dignified, it clashed with the quiet and unified tone of the whole interior. This altar was removed in 1991. (It had been the intention of Archbishop John J. Mitty to replace this altar by a more suitable one.)
The Stained Glass Windows
The original floor plan for the seminary chapel indicates that there were to be two side chapels within the body of the main chapel, located in the general area of the current back stalls. This plan included a much shorter main body of the chapel than its present size, with side walls and windows much less high than today's chapel. In addition, the sanctuary was to have windows in the back wall where the lattice work now is. Two of the windows for this space representing the Ancients of the Apocalypse were ultimate placed in the upper sacristy and small chapel areas, when it was decided not to place the two small chapels downstairs
Near the upstairs chapels are two windows, each representing seven saints. On the right side are St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis de Sales, St. Patrick and four others grouped together; on the left side are St. Stephen, St. John the Baptist and five other saints grouped together.
In the small upstairs chapels the windows are as follows: the first chapel on the right side has windows representing St. Lawrence and St. Stephen; the second chapel windows show St. John writing the Apocalypse and the vision of the Woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet and a crown of twelve stars about her head; the third chapel on this side has three small windows, the one over the altar representing the Blessed Virgin, and the side windows representing Gabriel and Our Lady at the Annunciation.
The first of the small upstairs chapels on the left side has windows showing St. Narcissius and the Lector martyred when an arrow pierced his throat while he was singing the Easter Alleluia; the next small chapel has windows representing the Boy Jesus and St. Joseph; the third chapel has a representation of the Sacred Heart over the altar, while the side windows depict St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.
When the crypt chapel was eliminated (which served originally as the chapel for the "minor seminary"), the floor of the chapel was lowered and the original windows were adopted with the addition of the present third element in their design: the Latin and Greek Fathers of the Church, and various religious symbols (e.g., a mitre; a monstrance).
The windows originally intended for the &side chapels" were enlarged for the main body of the chapel and two additional windows were commissioned. On the right side is St. Patrick, the Bishop, preaching to the Irish people; above is a smaller scene, apparently showing Patrick as a slave preaching the Gospel; at the top is a mitre surrounded by shamrocks. The window nearest the entrance on the right side shows St. Francis of Assissi in the main scene; above angels admire the Franciscan arms, the crossed arms of Christ and Francis; at the top the Blessed Sacrament is represented in the monstrance.
On the opposite side of the chapel, the window nearest the entrance shows St. Charles Borromeo in the main scene; above a smaller scene shows angels adoring the Chalice and Host; at the top is the representation of a statue of the Virgin and Child. Next, proceeding toward the sanctuary on the left side, the window represents the Good Shepherd in the main scene; above is another representation of an angel staying the hand of Abraham about to sacrifice his son, Isaac; and at the top is the Lamb of the Apocalypse.
High above the sanctuary are medallions representing some of the great prophets (from left to right) Moses, Daniel, Isaiah, John the Baptist (in the center), Jeremiah, Ezechiel, and David.
The pictorial scheme of the front ten windows presents the biblical story of the Sacrifice of Jesus, told in Type and Antitype: the fulfillment in the New Law of the promise in the Old; culminating in the entrance of the Great High Priest into the Holy of Holies, Heaven itself.
The windows in the Chapel have been chosen in accordance with this scheme. They were designed by the well-known house of John Hardman & Co. of Birmingham, England. The large windows are five feet wide and sixteen feet high. Each window contains two main panels, one above the other, both concerned with the same subject, one representing the Old Testament Type, and the other its New Testament fulfillment.
This magnificent carpet of rare texture and beauty was designed by John MacQuarrie, a distinguished San Francisco artist and sculptor. This marvelous conception of combined erudition, imagination and religious fervor was woven in Austria and imported to this country under great difficulties and at much expense. In memory of the late Archbishop Patrick W. Riordan, the carpet was donated to the newly finished chapel at St. Patrick's where it blends the beauty of its color and workmanship with the exquisite handicraft of the whole structure.
At the entrance to the chapel there is a small carpet measuring sixteen by twelve feet, which, for convenience sake, is called the console strip. There, in years gone by, the organ, which is now in the sanctuary, rested. This carpet, as it were, sounds the prelude to the symbolism that is to follow on the others. The outer border is composed of intertwining "figure eights" significant of the struggle of virtue against its enemies. In the main motif there is pictured the abatement of the waters after the flood and the springing up of new verdure fashioned like clover. There, also, can be seen drops of water falling from the out-stretched wings of the dove sent from the ark by Noah. In the dove's mouth is the branch of olive - the symbol of peace. Above all is the rainbow, the sign that the flood has abated.
There follows the large carpet, seventy feet long and twelve feet wide, which runs the length of the chapel nave. Here the symbolism is found in three distinct groupings.
The first grouping portrays two incidents that occurred in the history of the Israelites. There is the interrupted sacrifice by Abraham of his son Isaac. The victim-to-be is bound upon three stones which represent the altar; Abraham, overcome with grief is bowed suppliantly before the altar; the sacrificial sword is ready; but above hovers the angel sent to prevent the sacrifice. The other scene is the delivery of the law to the Chosen People amid the thunders of Sinai. One can see the hands of Moses outstretched to shield the people from the awful presence of the Divinity. From his fingers radiate the commandments of the Decalogue.
The second grouping on this carpet represents the inspired guidance of Israel by Samuel, prophet and judge. The kingship of David is also pictured in the symbol of the crown. Here is the harp of the royal psalmist from which, like wreaths of smoke from a censor, rise the beautiful harmonies of his worship, finally intertwining to form the letter "M", the monogram of the Blessed Virgin Mary who descended from the House of David. The third and last grouping on this carpet is perhaps the most significant of all. It is the Cross. About it may be seen the seven swords which pierced the pure heart of Mary.
Ascending to the sanctuary, the symbolism evolves from the history of Christianity in general to the theme of the conversion of Ireland. The first step represents a sunset upon the waters, symbolic of the spread of Christianity to the West. On the second step, the anchor of true faith has taken firm hold. And on the third, the symbolism is of pagan Ireland, portrayed by the four-leaf clover, the good luck symbol of old Celtic worship.
In the sanctuary proper, the main carpet depicts the conversion of the Isle of Saints. In the center is the baptismal font of St. Patrick, and this is surrounded by the holy vessels of the altar. About these symbols are bands of hearts, signifying conversion in the true faith; and embracing these is the shamrock, St. Patrick's chosen symbol of the Trinity. An outer border has at each corner a sanctuary lamp together with the episcopal insignia, the crozier and mitre. Here too is the fleur-de-lis, reminiscent of St. Patrick's French education, if not his birth. The dragon, ancient symbol of Satan, emerges, suggesting the never-ending struggle between good and evil.
Recycling is nothing new in the world of the pipe organ. For centuries fine instruments have been rebuilt, moved, and enlarged to fit new homes and changing circumstances. The instrument at St. Patrick's is the perfect example of how a well-made pipe organ can retain its value and serve for generations.
The organ was built in 1955, as opus 2199 by Austin Organs, Inc., of Hartford, Connecticut, one of the nation's largest and most respected organ builders. It was custom-designed for the chapel of St. Josephs College in Mountain View, California. In 1989, the College was so badly damaged by the earthquake that it was closed; however, the organ being of rugged New England construction, survived without a scratch. At the same time, the St. Patrick's Seminary was looking for a fine pipe organ for the beautiful and historic chapel. Schoenstein & Co. Organ Builders of San Francisco were commissioned to move it. The Schoenstein family had installed the instrument originally, and had maintained it. The organ itself was a gift to the seminary from the Bishop of San Jose, Most Reverend Pierre DuMaine.
Because the St. Patrick's chapel is larger than the St. Joseph's chapel, it was necessary to rearrange and enlarge the organ to fit the acoustics. Also, the instrument had been in service regularly for 35 years, so it was time for the replacement of leather and other perishable parts in its mechanism.
The organ was removed to the Schoenstein factory in San Francisco for complete renovation and enlargement. First, it was disassembled and cleaned. Working in cooperation with Austin Organs, Inc., the Schoenstein firm installed all new wind chest actions and made additional chests conforming to Austin design. New Austin-style universal air boxes were made for the main wind chests, and special structures were devised for the pedal pipes, which had to be mounted horizontally due to the restricted ceiling height. The organ was split into three sections to fit the layout requirements of St. Patrick's chapel. Located in the apse, it speaks into the sanctuary through the openings with carved grilles. The Great organ is in the grille left of center, with the Swell organ right of center. The Pedal organ is in the center and extreme left grilles. The extreme right grilles are reserved for future enlargement. New expression boxes were built to fit the Schoenstein vertical swell shades, which open 90 degrees. The upper work of the Pedal was also put in a reflector box to focus sound. A new solid state relay was provided and the console was completely rebuilt with a greatly enlarged combination action, new stop keys, and manual keys recovered with polished bone. The console case was refinished to match the furnishings of the chapel.
Of most interest are the tonal changes needed to accommodate the acoustics of the chapel. The original organ was 16 voices and 18 ranks. The organ today is 19 voices and 22 ranks. All of the voices from the original organ were retained with the exception of the Great Dolce, which was used to make one rank of the new Swell Sesquialtera stop. The other new voices include an independent Pedal Choral Bass of 32 pipes specially scaled to emphasize the treble solo register, a French-style Great 8' Harmonic Flute, and large-scale French-style Great Clarinet. Both of these stops are based on research conducted by Schoenstein on a study tour of Cavaillé-Coll organs of France in 1986. Putting the Harmonic Flute in place of the original Great Bourdon treble provided a set of Pipes to create a 4' Bourdon.
In addition to the new sounds, several voices were borrowed to increase flexibility. The Trumpet formerly playable only at 8' on the Swell and 16' on the Pedal was made available at both 16' and 4' on the Swell and 8' on the Great. The Great clarinet was made available at 16' on the Great, 8' on the Swell and 4' on the Pedal. The 8' Bourdon and Flute formerly available only on the Great at 8' and the Pedal at 16' was accessed on the Great at 16' and the Pedal at 4' and 2'. The strong treble crescendo in the harmonic Flute treble allows this stop to serve very well in these roles, especially as a powerful 16' treble voice on the manual, bolstering the sub octave line where it is most needed. The original 4' Swell Nachthorn was unified up an octave to provide a broad-scale 2' voice contrast with the narrow scale stop on the Great.
The original pipework was thoroughly re-regulated to fit the changed acoustics. The most dramatic changes were made in the Great organ. The entire Great chorus was revoiced, and the 8' Diapason was rescaled in the treble to provide a more singing, pure Principal tone. The Swell Mixture was revoiced to balance the Swell chorus with the Great chorus.
The organ is prepared for several additional stops, which are necessary to complete an ensemble of adequate size and variety for the chapel. A Solo Tuba, Great Mixture (IV Ranks), Great Spitzflöte Celeste, and 32' Sub Bass are the most needed additions.
Tonal design, scaling and the supervision of finishing were under the direction of Jack Bethards, president and tonal director of the Firm. The entire rebuilding project was under the direction of Robert Rhoads, factory manager. Engineering was by Chuck Primich, voicing by Fred Lake, pipe making by John Hupalo with Armando Dõna, finishing by Bert Schoenstein, fourth generation organ builder. Other artisans were David Fortin, Renato Guerrero, Orlando Gutierrez, George Morten, Dolores Rhoads, Chet Spencer, Dave Warburton, and Dan Yonts.
Renovation: 1989 - 1993
Many local churches must use spaces designed and built in a former period, spaces which may now be unsuitable for the liturgy. In the renovation of these spaces for contemporary liturgical use, there is no substitute for an ecclesiology that is both ancient and modern in the fullest sense. Nor is there any substitute for a thorough understanding of ritual needs in human life and the varied liturgical traditions of the Church. With these competencies, a renovation can respect both the best qualities of the original structure and the requirements of contemporary worship. (Art & Environment, 43)
In 1904, an Italian, white marble altar was ordered for $6,500 by Archbishop Riordan to be placed in the new seminary chapel which was currently under construction at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo park. The nearly completed chapel was severely damaged in the 1906 earthquake and, as a result, the great marble altar was never placed in the original space. In 1915, a new enlarged chapel with a white oak interior, designed by C.J. Devlin, Architect, was begun by Archbishop Hanna. In April of 1918, ten marble setters signed their names to a slip of paper to commemorate the completion of the construction of the Italian marble altar. The testimonial, sealed in a tobacco can, was entombed in the altar, where it remained until its discovery in August of 1991.
In the spring of 1991, Archbishop John R. Quinn approved the concept of renovation for the chapel, presented by Reverend Gerald D. Coleman, S.S., President/Rector. The Chapel Renovation Committee was then formed with the charge of bringing out the best qualities of the beautiful oak chapel, while adapting the space to contemporary worship and the goals of Vatican II.
After many months of design consideration, the Committee recommended to Archbishop Quinn that the existing marble altar be removed and replaced with a eucharistic tower on a three-riser platform. The Archbishop concurred with the recommendation of the Committee.
It was determined that, with the exception of the removal of the white marble altar, no changes would be made to the historic architecture of the chapel. Designs for furnishings were prepared to reflect the chapel architecture and the requirements of Art and Environment in Catholic Worship. A eucharistic tower, altar, presider's chair and ambo would be the major furnishing elements.
Recording the marble altar for architectural heritage and for the possibility of reassembly were two considerations for extensive documentation.
The first step in the plan was the removal of the white marble altar. This process was done by marble masons from Robert Cunningham Company under the direction of Richard Zlatunich, A.I.A., and Frank Portman Company.
The relic was removed from the altar before dismantling. The altar was documented with detailed drawings and photographs. During the disassembly process, each piece was numbered using museum quality identification markers to prevent staining of the marble. Two large pieces of marble are displayed in the east (Marian) courtyard, while the rest are packed in wooden crates and stored in the field house on the seminary property.. An historical record was prepared with full instructions on the reassembly of the altar.
The two angels were cemented to the low wall of the entrance stairs in the Marian courtyard. The baldachino had been removed from the altar at a date "sometime prior to 1919" and is also on display in the Marian courtyard. The crucifix is on display in A-wing of the seminary building, along with the brass tabernacle door.
As a result of the October 17, 1989 7.0 earthquake, St. Joseph's College in Mountain View, California, was damaged beyond repair. Most Reverend Pierre DuMaine, Bishop of the Diocese of San Jose, granted permission to remove the pipe organ for relocation to St. Patrick's Seminary. The process of removal, cleaning and expansion of the organ was accomplished by Schoenstein & Co. of San Francisco. A new console was built to match the white oak interior of the chapel. The pipes and air chambers were located on the second floor of the chapel, with the sound emanating from the screened grille in the sanctuary. The bellows are located behind the sacristy in a soundproof enclosure with the air ducted to the air chamber above.
The chapel never had a permanent lighting system. Several attempts had been made over the years to modify the wall sconces without success. The sanctuary area was illuminated with temporary lighting using extension cords for power.
The installation of a new lighting system by Frank Portman Co. and Smith Bro. Electric proved to be a very challenging process. It was discovered that the entire ceiling of the chapel is painted canvas panels installed between the oak beams. The question was how to evaluate the painted canvas to determine its condition and how to install the recessed lighting without damage to the panels.
To accomplish this, the entire chapel was scaffolded to the spring line of the curved ceiling and a floor was constructed. A rolling scaffold was erected forty feet in the air. A panel was removed and taken to the de Young Museum in San Francisco for examination. It was determined that all the panels were hand painted and that the canvas and paint were in very good condition. A system was developed to attach a reinforcing panel of canvas to the back of the painted panel, insert a plywood stiffener into the canvas frame and cut the original panel and reinforcing backing and fold the edges over the plywood filter. In this way the recessed fixtures could be inserted into the panel without damage to the balance of the canvas, which would not distort the panel from the weight of the fixture.
Because the chapel walls and ceiling had never been treated since the original construction, all surfaces were cleaned with an industrial solvent and treated with lemon oil to restore moisture to the oak. Many of the original wall oak panels had been damaged by insects and had to be entirely replaced. Prior to commencing the project, the chapel was tented and fumigated.
In addition, the Catholic Telemedia Network (CTN) installed a new sound system in the chapel, with microphone outlets at the ambo, President's chair, and altar.
"Know that I am with you always." (Matthew 28:20)
"The celebration of the Eucharist is the focus of the normal Sunday assembly. As such, the major space of a church is designed for this action. Beyond the celebration of the Eucharist, the Church has had a most ancient tradition of reserving the eucharistic bread. The purpose of this reservation is to bring communion to the sick and to be the object of private devotion." (Art & Environment, 78, 79)
The oak-paneled seminary chapel, built in 1918, is magnificent in its eclecticism of Romanesque, Gothic, and classical elements. In materials and design, the tabernacle is a contemporary reflection of this setting.
Although much smaller than the great white marble altar it replaced, it takes full possession of the space by subtly borrowing from larger surrounding elements. For example, the curve of its colonnade repeats the larger curve of the apse wall. Elements of the cornice and sanctuary lamp are gold leaf in order to associate with the gold-leaf elements throughout the chapel. The golden color of maple in the tabernacle's interior accomplishes this same end.
The tabernacle not only serves as a receptacle, but also a testament of the Incarnation. Therefore, the design attempts to reflect both the divine and the human, the intangible and the tangible. The remote dignity of the tabernacle's austere facade is balanced by the intimate glow of the sanctuary lamp and the outreaching embrace of the colonnade. The diaphanous relief work on the bronze doors representing rays of light, the perpetual movement of the sanctuary lamp's reflection on the gold-leaf cornice, the golden maple interior, all give parts of the tabernacle a luminous quality and the sense of a living presence.
The use of colonnades in tabernacle designs has inspiration from such tempietto designs as Rainaldi's tabernacle for Rome's Santa Maria della Scala and Bernini's tabernacle for St. Peter's Basilica.
The warm color of the maple is further brought out by its use in the altar, the ambo, and the case for the Holy Oils, which is mounted on the wall in the front-right corner of the sanctuary.
"Because the loaf of bread is one, we, many though we are, are one body, for we all partake of the one bread." (1 Corinthians 10:17)
"The people of God are called together to share in this common table, a symbol of the Lord. Thus the altar is the heart of Christian worship. It stands free, approachable from every side, capable of being encircled. It is the most noble, the most beautifully designed and constructed table the community can provide." (Art & Environment, 71 and General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 259)
The altar is square with its legs directed toward the center where two sweeping arches intersect. Its proportions were established to interlock with the Celtic designs on the carpet beneath it. The legs, with their small Romanesque pilasters embedded at each corner, as well as their elaborate bases, are reflective of these same prominent features found throughout the chapel. The arch, so pivotal in the scheme of the chapel (the entrance, the barrel-vaulted ceiling, the tympanum, etc.) finds its culmination in the altar's interlocking arches.
A variety of woods have been used for their color properties. Oak is used for the legs and arches to match the oak so dominant throughout the chapel. The top of the altar, however, is made of maple: a brocade-like centerpiece of bird's-eye maple, trimmed with a thin strip of purple heart wood, and a border of straight grained maple which drapes over the side of the altar and is decoratively edged with another border of purple heart wood. In a room of oak, the contrast of this blond maple helps create needed focus for the altar. At the same time, it repeats the maple of the interior of the tabernacle, as well as such gold-leaf elements as the halos behind the heads of the saints in the upper recesses of the apse. The effect is reminiscent of the shimmering gold cloths one sometimes sees on the altars of the orthodox churches. By the same token, the purple heart wood reflects the coloring of the carpets.
Set within the altar are the names of the alumni of St. Joseph's College who donated this altar to the seminary - as a lasting testimony to the memory of St. Joseph's / St. Patrick's College.
"He came to Nazareth where he had been reared, and entering the synagogue on the Sabbath as he was in the habit of doing, he stood up to do the reading." (Luke 4:16)
The ambo or lectern is a standing desk for reading and preaching. The ambo represents the dignity and uniqueness of the Word of God and of reflection.